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By James Teitelbaum | August 27, 2009

In this short film by J.C. Schroder, we glimpse a rather large cast of college students waking up in the morning, meeting at school, and beginning their day. Half of the film’s running time is spent introducing these characters, but we never really get a feel for who they are, what their names are, or why we should care about them. Perhaps there are too many of them for a thirty-minute film. Their banter feels forced, and a shaky camera whip-panning back and forth during conversations drags an attempt at a documentarian feel into confusion.

The film takes an abrupt turn for the better at the halfway point. A bomb destroys a classroom, killing one girl (Nicole Bailey as Abby), leaving another wounded, and sending a third wandering the streets shell-shocked. With some atmospheric music and some clever editing, Schroder creates a few minutes of genuine tension and pathos. As Abby lays dying, one kid who just happened to have come to school with a gun tries to help, and is arrested by a genius detective who hasn’t figured out that the crime was committed with a bomb, not a pistol. Sure, you shouldn’t bring a piece to school, but I think the cop may have had bigger fish to catch that morning.

The film then flips back into a shorter and less satisfying third act as schmaltzy music replaces the atmospheric tracks, and the film winds down with a montage of all of the characters looking kind of sad. We never find out who set off the blast or what this person’s motivations are. I guess this is supposed to direct our focus on the way the victims of the crime are affected rather than making the crime itself the center of the film. This could work if the characters were better established in the beginning, and if there were further time devoted to more substantial drama in the third act, rather than just a string of reaction shots.

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